September 9, 2009
By Michael Lewis
'WE NEED TO WIN THIS GAME'
Donovan talks about U.S.-T&T
Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago -- Landon Donovan could not have been more emphatic about Wednesday's World Cup qualifying match between the United States and Trinidad & Tobago.
|Landon Donovan: "In a perfect world, we don't want to wait until the last game to have to qualify against Costa Rica at home."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
"We need to win this game," Donovan said. "Our last two are very difficult games. This is a team that's not mathematically out, but likely out of it. It's a team we need to beat, clearly."
If the Americans (4-2-1, 13 points) win and Costa Rica (4-2-0, 12) defeats El Salvador (1-4-2, five), they will clinch at least fourth place in the final CONCACAF standings and a spot in the qualifying playoffs. That would pit the CONCACAF team against the fifth-place team in South America.
"We need to be aggressive because this is a game we need to win," Donovan said. "Trinidad's a dangerous team. They have a lot of players that can make plays going forward. We need to be careful, but its not a game that we're going to come out and shy and wait for something to happen."
At this juncture, every game, every point is important because the race to finish among the top three teams is so close. Honduras (4-2-1, 13) leads the six-team group over the U.S. by goal differential (plus seven to plus four), followed by Mexico (4-3-0, 12) and Costa Rica (4-2-0, 12).
"Its crucial because our next game is at Honduras and that's a very difficult place to play," Donovan said of the Oct. 14 encounter in San Pedro Sula, Honduras. "In a perfect world, we don't want to wait until the last game to have to qualify against Costa Rica at home. So this game becomes very important for us."
It would be easy for the U.S. to take T&T (1-4-2, five) lightly because the Soca Warriors are on the verge of elimination.
"We have to go in with that type of mentality because that's the only way you're going to get the most of the game," Clint Dempsey said. "Coming out and try our best. We have to be thinking that three points is what we need because it looks like it's going to be such a tight race. Every game is going to be very important."
There are many motivations to accrue three points and win. One is to avoid the playoffs altogether because you don't know what that will bring.
One possible foes could be an underachieving Argentina side. While the team has struggled under coach Diego Maradona, Argentina has to be respected because it boasts the lethal scoring talents of Lionel Messi, considered by many observers to be the best player in the world, and Carlos Tevez.
Reaching the playoffs could complicate things for the Americans on several levels.
The home-and-home series is set for Nov. 14 and 18. Let's say the L.A. Galaxy go deep in the MLS playoffs or reach MLS Cup on Nov. 22, Donovan, the country's best player, could wind up in a tug-of-war between club and country or stretched in both directions.
Dempsey has another motivation: He doesn't want to fly over the Atlantic another time in November He plays for Fulham in the English Premier League.
"It's the last thing the players want because of all of the travel," he said. "A lot of players are playing in Europe. "So no one would be looking forward to all that traveling."
A good portion of the U.S. National Team plays in Europe.
"It would be great to be first, but second and third is not going to be too bad," Dempsey said. "The most important thing is qualifying for the World Cup."